Chelo Shibit: Afghan Dill Rice

This is a recipe, as promised, from the menu at the Nairobi Reunion dinner I hosted.  (My recipe was awarded an Editor’s Pick on Amanda Hesser -the ex- New York Times Food Editor- and Merrill Stubbs’ Food 52 project).

Dill is used widely in Persian and Afghan cooking. It lends a lovely fragrant, herbal quality to the rice- which can be paired with an aubergine and savoury mince casserole or a even a simple roast chicken.

A few cooking notes:

  • I have learnt that the trick with this rice is to move very fast- once the rice has been parboiled and drained, the layering with the dill has to be done very quickly so the warm temperature of the rice doesn’t drop too fast.
  • The rice and dill are layered in a dome-like shape in the pot. This allows the rice to steam uniformly.
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Chelo Shibit: Afghan Dill Rice

Yield: 4
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • water for soaking and parboiling
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh dill chopped very fine


  • Soak the Basmati for 30 minutes minimum, (preferably an hour, minimum)
  • Boil 6-8 cups of water, when it comes to a rolling boil, add the Basmati. Let it cook for 13-15 minutes.
  • To test when the rice is ready for steaming, take a grain and if it is soft on the outside but breaks between your finger and thumb, remove from the flame. It should be al dente.
  • Drain the water. Place pan on the stove on low heat and add olive oil. With a wide-rimmed spatula, add a thin layer of rice to the pot. Sprinkle with dill, and keep layering the rice and dill in a towering dome shape; like a pyramid.This ensures the rice cooks evenly.
  • To release the steam, make 2-3 holes (one in the middle and two on the side) with the handle of a wooden spoon.
  • Cover the pot with a tea towel, replace the lid and let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Decant with a teacup saucer or wide-rimmed spatula.

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  1. This sounds amazing! Question: When you cover the pot with the tea towel, do you put the lid on top of the towel? I was a bit confused by that step. Can’t wait to try this. xx

    1. @Arlene Thank you so much. Yes, you place the tea towel over the pot to absorb the condensation from the steam (otherwise the water will drip back into the pot). You then place the lid on top of the tea towel to ‘seal it shut’. Sorry if I didn’t explain that properly.

  2. Cooking rice is a whole art in itself – I realise this every time mine is too grainy, mushy or soggy (or just plain dull and boring)… so thanks for this!

  3. I loved ordering this rice dish at Persian restaurants in Vancouver (I grew up there). I just never realised the ingredient list was very simple! Thank you!

  4. mmmmmhh…it’s so yummy in here!
    I wish I was at this dinner as well 🙂
    When I smell persian food, I feel at home. I grew up with rice and dill.


  5. @Marion I have made many a soggy, porridge-like rice dishes in my life. Luckily I like rice enough to have tried again and again- till it came out looking the way it should. Thanks so much for visiting.

    @Su-Lin Thanks, Su-Lin. The Iranis add lima beans to their chelo shibit, which is adds a lovely dimension.

    @Fatima Thanks, hope it turns out well. Am an avid reader of your food-in-literature blog.

    @ninamasina Next time, I shall give you advance notice so you can make your way over for dinner across the Atlantic from Italy. I didn’t know the Milanese ate rice and dill.

    @Maunika Thanks so much Maunika. I shall try to post the aubergine recipe this weekend. Have fallen behind in my posts a bit.

  6. Shayma, looks delicious, I should try making rice just with dill and nothing else. It’s just perfect! The last line about decanting with a teacup saucer brought back so many memories from back home. Thanks

  7. I love the Persian version of this dish with lima beans. I had Afghani food once or twice and loved it so much! I can’t wait to see if you have posted on the dishes I sampled in that restaurant in San Fransico which had dumplings stuffed with leeks I think

  8. @Meeso @Fati @Zurin @So Lovely Thank you so much.

    @Maninas The next post shall be the aubergine dish, promise. Thanks so much, as always.

    @Azita I, like @tasteofbeirut, love the Irani version with lima beans. Thanks so much for your kind words. The teacup saucer really does remind one of home, doesn’t it? Such a simple homecook’s trick.

    @Tasteofbeirut I love that version, too. That’s a lovely idea for a post- thank you- I shall write a post on ‘aushak’ (dumplings filled w leeks) soon- have just started blogging (less than 2 months) so am a little bit slow at the moment 🙂

  9. Shayma, I grew up with a persian friend 😉
    She’s a kind of Mum to me.

    Italian people are defenitely not used to eat any kind of these!
    Nice idea to cross the Atlantic once, and come to dinner 🙂

  10. @Lisaiscooking Thank you so much for visiting, Lisa.

    @Ninamasina Thanks, Nina. You are very lucky to have grown up with both Italian and Persian food influences.

    @Jasmine, Grazie, cara.

    @Iana Thank you.

    @Javane Thanks for the visit. There are, indeed, so many similarities between Afghan and Persian cuisine.

  11. @MeMyself Hi, it probably depends on how fresh the dill is, but don’t worry if you lost the colour, as long as the aroma and taste is still there. The only other thing I can think of is that you may have steamed the rice for too long.

    1. Hello – I would salt whatever you are having this rice with, vegetables, yoghurt, etcetera. You can salt the rice, if you like. Hope that helps. Best, Shayma

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